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    A Kindred Spirit: Heathenry at Sea

    Sailors’ puzzled faces strain to make sense of what was just passed over the one-main circuit: “Heathen lay service will now be held in the Ship’s Chapel.”

    Heathenry, a religion with roots in Norse culture and mythology, is being practiced by a small, committed group of Sailors aboard the aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74).

    Aviation Electrician’s Mate 2nd Class Joshua Wood, from Eagle River, Alaska, is John C. Stennis’ Heathen lay leader. Wood has practiced Heathenry for over five years.

    “I took a world mythology class in high school and that opened my eyes to the Nordic Gods,” said Wood.

    Wood, who was raised Roman Catholic, found Heathenry’s teachings within the religion’s Eddas aligned with his personal beliefs more than the monotheistic philosophies he was raised with. The Eddas, two separate works of poems and prose, are the largest collections of Viking mythology and are essential pieces of work for Heathens.

    Wood said that he found a kindred (a community of practicing Heathens) local to him in San Diego, which enabled him to further connect with the religion.

    “They are my surrogate family,” said Wood. “They helped me understand the religion, and with their help, I transitioned from someone who was merely interested in the religion to someone who is well-versed enough to lead others in prayer. I went through them to get certified to lead services on the ship.”

    Wood said he wants Sailors, whether they’re practicing Heathens or just curious, to know that they are not alone and are welcome to come to any informal ceremony, called a sumbel. It was at one of these sumbels where he met Aviation Electronics Technician Airman Joshua Shaikoski.
    Shaikoski was raised in Rockford, Minnesota, but was born in Norway, the home of Heathenism.

    “Just like Wood, I was not born a Heathen,” said Shaikoski. “I went to Lutheran services with my parents when I was growing up, but it always felt forced. I never felt like I connected with anything spiritual until I visited Norway and discovered a group of Heathens who opened my eyes to their religion. When I returned to Washington, I met a kindred that aligned with my beliefs and I’ve been with them ever since.”
    Much of Heathenry is based on the Earth and nature, which poses an interesting predicament to Sailors at sea.

    “Since a lot of Norway and Scandinavia are covered in forests and mountains, it makes sense that the gods the ancient Heathens worshiped are land-based,” said Shaikoski. “We do a lot of praying to the god of seafarers, Njord.”

    On the topic of dispelling rumors about the ancient religion, Shaikoski said he has heard them all.

    “I have been asked if we sacrifice animals or if we are racial supremacists,” he said. “Not only is it the farthest from the truth, but it is hurtful because Heathenry is a religion of peace and community. Heathenry helped me connect with people on the ship that I would have just passed by.”

    According to Miliary Personnel Manual (MILPERSMAN) 1730-010, religious lay leaders will be appointed by commanding officers on the basis of volunteerism, high moral character, motivation, religious interest and a letter of certification by the appointee’s religious organization.
    The John C. Stennis Carrier Strike Group is deployed to the U.S. 5th Fleet area of operations in support of naval operations to ensure maritime stability and security in the Central Region, connecting the Mediterranean and the Pacific through the western Indian Ocean and three strategic choke points.

    For more news on John C. Stennis, visit or follow along on Facebook at



    Date Taken: 12.20.2018
    Date Posted: 12.31.2018 05:49
    Story ID: 305803
    Location: PACIFIC OCEAN

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